Page images
PDF
EPUB

sary to follow the rules of virtue, and to preserve That he was not altogether free from literary an unvaried regard to truth. For though it is hypocrisy, and that he sometimes spoke ono undoubtedly possible that a man, however cau. thing and wrote another, cannot be denied; betious, may be sometimes deceived by an artful cause he himself confessed, that, when he lived appearance of virtue, or by false evidences of in great familiarity with Dennis, he wrote an guilt, such errors will not be frequent; and it epigramt against him. will be allowed, that the name of an author Mr. Savage, however, set all the malice of all would never have been made contemptible, had the pigmy writers at defiance, and thought the no man ever said what he did not think, or mis- friendship of Mr. Pope cheaply purchased by led others but when he was himself deceived. being exposed to their censure and their hatred;

“The Author to be Let” was first published nor had he any reason to repent of the preferin a single pamphlet, and afterwards inserted in ence, for he found Mr. Pope a steady and unaa collection of pieces relating to the “Dunciad,” lienable friend almost to the end of his life. which were addressed by Mr. Savage to the About this time, notwithstanding his avowed Earl of Middlesex, in a dedication* which he neutrality with regard to party, he published a was prevailed upon to sign, though he did not panegyric on Sir Robert Walpole, for which he write it, and in which there are some positions, was rewarded by him with twenty guineas; a that the true author would perhaps not have sum not very large, if either the excellence of published under his own name, and on which the performance, or the affluence of the patron, Mr. Savage afterwards reflected with no great be considered; but greater than he afterwards satisfaction: the enumeration of the bad effects obtained from a person of yet higher rank, and of the uncontrolled freedom of the press, and the more desirous in appearance of being distinassertion that the liberties taken by the writers guished as a patron of literature. of journals with “their superiors, were exorbi As he was very far from approving the contant and unjustifiable,” very ill became men, duct of Sir Robert Walpole, and in conversation who have themselves not always shown the ex- mentioned him sometimes with acrimony, and actest regard to the laws of 'subordination in generally with contempt; as he was one of those their writings, and who have often satirised who was always zealous in his assertions of the those that at least thought themselves their su- justice of the late opposition, jealous of the rights periors, as they were eminent for their heredi- of the people, and alarmed by the long-continued tary rank, and employed in the highest offices of triumph of the court; it was natural to ask him the kingdom. But this is only an instance of what could induce him to employ his poetry in that partiality which almost every man indulges praise of that man who was, in his opinion, an with regard to himself: the liberty of the press enemy to liberty, and an oppressor of his counis a blessing when we are inclined to write try? He alleged, that he was then dependent against others, and a calamity when we find upon the Lord Tyrconnel, who was an implicit ourselves overborne by the multitude of our as follower of the ministry; and that, being ensailants; as the power of the crown is always joined by him, not without menaces, to write in thought too great by those who suffer by its in- praise of his leader, he had not resolution suffifluence, and too little by those in whose favour cient to sacrifice the pleasure of affluence to that it is exerted; and a standing army is generally of integrity. accounted necessary by those who command, On this, and on many other occasions, he was and dangerous and oppressive by those whó ready to lament the misery of living at the support it.

tables of other men, which was his fate from Mr. Savage was likewise very far from believ- the beginning to the end of his life; for I know ing that the letters annexed to each species of not whether he ever had, for three months tobad poets in the Bathos were, as he was directed gether, a settled habitation, in which he could to assert, "set down at random;" for when he claim a right of residence. was charged by one of his friends with putting To this unhappy state it is just to impute his name to such an improbability, he had no much of the inconstancy of his conduct; for other answer to make than “he did not think of though a readiness to comply with the incliit;” and his friend had too much tenderness to nation of others was no part of his natural chareply, that next to the crime of writing contrary racter, yet he was sometimes obliged to relax to what he thought, was that of writing without his obstinacy, and submit his own judgment, thinking.

and even his virtue, to the government of those After having remarked what is false in this by whom he was supported: so that, if his misededication, it is proper that I observe the impar- ries were sometimes the consequences of his tiality which I recommend, by declaring what faults, he ought not yet to be wholly excluded Savage asserted, that the account of the circum- from compassion, because his faults were very stances which attended the publication of the often the effects of his misfortunes. “Dunciad,” however strange and improbable, In this gay periodt of his life, while he was was exactly true.

surrounded by affluence and pleasure, he pubThe publication of this piece at this time raised Mr. Savage a great number of enemies among

† This epigram was, I believe, never published. those that were attacked by Mr. Pope, with should Dennis publish you had stabbid your brother, whom he was considered as a kind of confede- | Lampoon'd your monarch, or debauch'd your mother, rate, and whom he was suspected of supplying Say, what revenge on Dennis can be had, with private intelligence and secret incidents; Too dull for laughter, for reply too mad?' so that the ignominy of an informer was added On one so old your sword

you scorn to draw. to the terror of a satírist.

Uncag'd, then, let the harınless monster rage,

Secure in dulness, madness, want, and age.--Dr. J
See his Works, vol. ii. p. 233.

1729.

lished “The Wanderer," a moral poem, of characters wholly fictititious, and without the which the design is comprised in these lines : least allusion to any real persons or actions. I fly all public care, all venal strife,

From a poem so diligently laboured, and so To try the still, compard with active life;

successfully finished, it might be reasonably To prove, by these, the sons of men may owe expected that he should have gained consideraThe fruits of bliss to bursting clouds of wo; That even calamity, by thought refind,

ble advantage ; nor can it without some degree Inspirits and adorns the thinking mind.

of indignation and concern be told, that he sold And more distinctly in the following passage:

the copy for ten guineas, of which he afterwards

returned two, that the two last sheets of the By wo, the soul lo daring action swells :

work might be reprinted, of which he bad in By wo, in paintless patience it excels : From patience, prudent clear experience springs,

his absence intrusted the correction to a friend, And traces knowledge through the course of things !

who was too indolent to perform it with accuThence hope is form'd, thence fortitude, success, racy. Renown:-whate'er men covet and caress.

A superstitious regard to the correction of This performance was always considered by his sheets was one of Mr. Savage's peculiarihimself as his masterpiece ; and Mr. Pope, ties : he often altered, revised, recurred to his when he asked his opinion of it, told him, that first reading or punctuation, and again adopted he read it once over, and was not displeased the alteration : he was dubious and irresolute with it; that it gave him more pleasure at the without end, as on a question of the last imsecond perusal, and delighted him still more at portance, and at last was seldom satisfied: the the third.

intrusion or omission of a comma was sufficient It has been generally objected to “The Wan- to discompose him, and he would lament an derer,” that the disposition of the parts is irre- error of a single letter as a heavy calamity. gular; that the design is obscure, and the plan In one of his letters relating to an impression perplexed; that the images, however beautiful, of some verses, he remarks, that he had, with succeed each other without order; and that the regard to the correction of the proof, a spell whole performance is not so much a regular upon him ;” and indeed the anxiety with which fabrie, as a heap of shining materials thrown he felt upon the minutest and most trifling together by accident, which strikes rather with niceties deserved no other name than that of the solemn magnificence of a stupendous ruin, fascination. than the elegant grandeur of a finished pile. That he sold so valuable a performance for

The criticism is universal, and therefore it is so small a price, was not to be imputed either reasonable to believe it at least in a great de- to necessity, by which the learned and ingenious gree just; but Mr. Savage was always of a are often obliged to submit to very hard condicontrary opinion, and thought his drift could tions; or to avarice, by which the booksellers only be missed by negligence or stupidity, and are frequently incited to oppress that genius by that the whole plan was regular, and the parts which they are supported; but to that intempedistinct.

rate desire of pleasure, and habitual slavery 10 It was never denied to abound with strong his passions, which involved him in many perrepresentations of nature, and just observations plexities. He happened at that time to be enupon life; and it may casily be observed, that gaged in the pursuit of some trifling gratificamost of his pictures have an evident tendency tion, and, being without money for the present to illustrate his first great position, “that good occasion, sold his poem to the first bidder, and is the consequence of evil.” The sun that perhaps for the first price that was proposed, burns up the mountains, fructifies the vales; and would probably have been content with the deluge that rushes down the broken rock's less, if less had been offered him. with dreadful impetuosity, is separated into This poem was addressed to the Lord Tyr.. purling brooks; and the rage of the hurricane connel, not only in the first lines, but in a formal purifies the air.

dedication filled with the highest strains of paneEven in this poem he has not been able to gyric, and the warmest professions of gratitude, forbear one touch upon the cruelty of his mo- but by no means remarkable for delicacy of conther, which, though remarkably delicate and nexion or elegance of style. tender, is a proof how deep an impression it These praises in a short time he found himhad upon his mind.

self inclined to retract, being discarded by the This must be at least acknowledged, which man on whom he had bestowed them, and onght to be thought equivalent to many other ex- whom he then immediately discovered not to cellences, that this poem can promote no other have deserved them. of this quarrel, which purposes than those of virtue, and that it is every day made more bitter, Lord Tyrconnel written with a very strong sense of the efficacy and Mr. Savage assigned very different reasons, of religion.

which might perhaps all in reality concur, But my province is rather to give the history though they were not all convenient to be alof Mr. Savage's performances than to display leged by either party. Lord Tyrconnel affirmed their beauties, or to obviate the criticisms which that it was the constant practice of Mr. Savage they have occasioned; and therefore I shall not to enter a tavern with any company that prodwell upon the particular passages which de- posed it, drink the most expensive wines with serve applause; 'I shall neither show the excel- great profusion, and when the reckoning was lence of his descriptions, nor expatiate on the demanded, to be without money; if, as it often terrific portrait of suicide, nor point out the happened, his company were willing to defray artful touches by which he has distinguished his part, the affair ended without any ill consethe intellectual features of the rebels who suffer quences; but if they were refractory, and exdeath in his last canto. It is, however, proper pected that the wine should be paid for by him to observe that Mr. Savage always declared the I that drank it, his method of composition was,

enness.

to take them with him to his own apartment, pectations, as tending to infringe his liberty, of assume the government of the house, and order which he was very jealous, when it was necesthe butler in an imperious manner to set the sary to the gratification of his passions; and debest wine in the cellar before his company, who clared, that the request was still more unreaoften drank till they forgot the respect due to sonable, as the company to which he was to the house in which they were entertained, in- have been confined was insupportably disagreedulged themselves in the utmost extravagance able. This assertion affords another instance of merriment, practised the most licentious fro- of that inconsistency of his writings with his conlics, and committed all the outrages of drunk- versation, which was so often to be observed.

He forgot how lavishly he had in his dedication Nor was this the only charge which Lord to “The Wanderer,” extolled the delicacy and Tyrconnel brought against him : having given penetration, the humanity and generositý, the him a collection of valuable books, stamped candour and politeness, of the man, whom, when with his own arms, he had the mortification to he no longer loved him, he declared to be a see them in a short time exposed to sale upon wretch without understanding, without goodthe stalls, it being usual with Mr. Savage, when nature, and without justice; of whose name he he wanted a small sum, to take his books to the thought himself obliged to leave no trace in any pawnbroker.

future edition of his writings; and accordingly Whoever was acquainted with Mr. Savage blotted it out of that copy of “ The Wanderer * easily credited both these accusations: for hav- which was in his hands. ing been obliged, from his first entrance into During his continuance with the Lord Tyrthe world, to subsist upon expedients, affluence connel, he wrote “The Triumph of Health and was not able to exalt him above them; and so Mirth,” on the recovery of Lady Tyrconnel much was he delighted with wine and conversa- from a languishing illness. This performance tion, and so long had he been accustomed to live is remarkable, not only for the gayety of the by chance, that he would at any time go to the ideas, and the melody of the numbers, but for tavern without scruple, and trust for the reck the agreeable fiction upon which it is formed. oning to the liberality of his company, and fre- Mirth, overwhelmed with sorrow for the sickquently of company to whom he was very little ness of her favourite, takes a flight in quest of known. This conduct indeed very seldom her sister Health, whom she finds reclined upon drew upon him those inconveniences that might the brow of a lofty mountain, amidst the frabe feared by any other person; for his conver- grance of perpetual spring, with the breezes of sation was so entertaining, and his address so the morning sporting about her. Being solicited pleasing, that few thought the pleasure which by her sister Mirth, she readily promises her asthey received from him dearly purchased, by sistance, flies away in a cloud, and impregnates paying for his wine. It was his peculiar hap- the waters of Bath with new virtues, by which piness, that he scarcely ever found a stranger, the sickness of Belinda is relieved. whom he did not leave a friend ; but it must As the reputation of his abilities, the particulikewise be added that he had not often a lar circumstances of his birth and life, the splenfriend long, without obliging him to become a dour of his appearance, and the distinction which stranger.

was for some time paid him by Lord Tyrconnel, Mr. Savage, on the other hand, declared that entitled him to familiarity with persons of higher Lord Tyrconnel* quarrelled with him because rank than those to whose conversation he had he would not subtract from his own luxury and been before admitted; he did not fail to gratify extravagance what he had promised to allow that curiosity which induced him to take a nearer him, and that his resentment was only a plea for view of those whom their birth, their employthe violation of his promise. He asserted, that ments, or their fortunes, necessarily place at a he had done nothing that ought to exclude him distance from the greatest part of mankind, and from that subsistence which he thought not so to examine whether their merit was magnified much a favour as a debt, since it was offered him or diminished by the medium through which it upon conditions which he had never broken; was contemplated; whether the splendour with and that his only fault was, that he could not be which they dazzled their admirers was inherent supported with nothing.

in themselves, or only reflected on them by the He acknowledged, that Lord Tyrconnel often objects that surrounded them; and whether great exhorted him to regulate his method of life, and men were selected for high stations, or high stanot to spend all his nights in taverns, and that tions made great men. he appeared very desirous that he would pass For this purpose he took all opportunities of those hours with him, which he so freeely be conversing familiarly with those who were most stowed upon others. This demand Mr. Sa- conspicuous at that time for their power or their vage, considered as a censure of his conduct, influence: he watched their looser moments, which he could never patiently bear, and which, and examined their domestic behaviour, with in the latter and cooler parts of his life, was so that acuteness which nature had given him, and offensive to him, that he declared it as his reso- which the uncommon variety of his life had conlution, “to spurn that friend who should pre-tributed to increase, and that inquisitiveness sume to dictate to him ;” and it is not likely which must always be produced in a vigorous that in his earlier years he received admonitions mind, by an absolute freedom from all pressing with more calmness.

or domestic engagements. He was likewise inclined to resent such ex His discernment was quick, and therefore he

soon found in every person, and in every affair, Tyrconnel had involved his estate, and therefore poorly ported by others without any are for himself, and

His expression in one of his letters was, " that Lord something that deserved attention : he was sup sought an occasion to quarrel with him."-Dr. J. was therefore at leisure to pursue his observations.

any

More circumstances to constitute a critic on than usual caution preserved by him, who knew, buman life could not easily concur; nor indeed if he had reflected, that he was only a dependant could any man who assumed from accidental ad- on the bounty of another, whom he could expect vantages more praise than he could justly claim to support him no longer than he endeavoured from his real “merit, admit any acquaintance to preserve his favour by complying with his in. more dangerous than that of Savage; of whom chinations, and whom he nevertheless set at de. likewise it must be confessed, that abilities really fiance, and was continually irritating by negli exalted above the common level, or virtue refined gence or encroachments. from passion, or proof against corruption, could Examples need not be sought at any great not easily find an abler judge, or a warmer advo- distance to prove, that superiority of fortune has cate.

a natural tendency to kindle pride, and that What was the result of Mr. Savage's inquiry, pride seldom fails to exert itself in contempt and though he was not much accustomed to conceal insult; and if this is often the effect of hereditary his discoveries, it may not be entirely safe to re- wealth, and of honours enjoyed only by the merit late, because the persons whose characters he of others, it is some extenuation of indecent criticised are powerful; and power and resent- triumphs, to which this unhappy man may have ment are seldom strangers : nor would it per- been betrayed, that his prosperity was heightenhaps be wholly just; because what asserted ed by the force of novelty, and made more intoxiin conversation might, though true in general, cating by a sense of the misery in which he had be heightened by some momentary ardour of so long languished, and perhaps of the insults imagination, and, as it can be delivered only which he had formerly borne, and which he might from memory, may be imperfectly represented; now think himself entitled to revenge. It is too so that the picture, at first aggravated, and then common for those who have unjustly suffered unskilfully copied, may be justly suspected to pain, to inflict it likewise in their turn with the retain no great resemblance of the original. same injustice, and to imagine that they have a

It may, however, be observed, that he did not right to treat others as they have themselves been appear to have formed very elevated ideas of treated. those to whom the administration of affairs, or That Mr. Savage was too much elevated by the conduct of parties, have been entrusted; who any good fortune, is generally known; and some have been considered as the advocates of the passages of his Introduction to “The Author to crown, or the guardians of the people; and who be Let,” sufficiently show that he did not wholly have obtained the most implicit confidence, and refrain from such satire as he afterwards thought the loudest applauses. Of one particular per- very unjust when he was exposed to it himself; son, who has been at one time so popular as to for, when he was afterwards ridiculed in the be generally esteemed, and at another so formi- character of a distressed poet, he very easily disdable as to be universally detested, he observed, covered, that distress was not a proper subject that his acquisitions had been small, or that his for merriment, nor topic of invective. He was capacity was narrow, and that the whole range then able to discern, that if misery be the effect of his mind was from obscenity to politics, and of virtue, it ought to be reverenced; if of ill. from politics to obscenity.

fortune, to be pitied : and if of vice, not to be But the opportunity of indulging his specula- insulted, because it is perhaps itself a punishtions on great characters was now at an end.- ment adequate to the crime by which it was proHe was banished from the table of Lord Tyr- duced. And the humanity of that man can deconnel, and turned again adrift upon the world, serve no panegyric, who is capable of reproachwithout prospect of finding quickly any other ing a criminal in the hands of the executioner. harbour. As prudence was not one of the vir. But these reflections, though they readily octues by which he was distinguished, he had curred to him in the first and last parts of his made no provision against a misfortune like this. life, were, I am afraid, for a long time forgotten; And though it is not to be imagined but that the at least they were, like many other maxims, separation must for some time have been pre- treasured up in his mind rather for show than ceded by coldness, peevishness, or neglect, though use, and operated very little upon his conduct, it was undoubtedly the consequence of accumu- however elegantly he might sometimes explain, lated provocations on both sides: yet every one or however forcibly he might inculcate them. that knew Savage will readily believe, that to His degradation, therefore, from the condition him it was sudden as a stroke of thunder ; that which he had enjoyed with such wanton thoughtthough he might have transiently suspected it, he lessness, was considered by many as an occahad never suffered any thought so unpleasing to sion of triumph. Those who had before paid sink into his mind; but that he had driven it their court to him without success, soon returned away by amusements, or dreams of future felicity the contempt which they had suffered; and they and affluence, and had never taken any mea- who had received favours from him, (for of such sures by which he might prevent a precipitation favours as he could bestow he was very liberal,) from plenty to indigence.

did not always remember them. So much more This quarrel and separation, and the difficul- certain are the effects of resentment than of graties to which Mr. Savage was exposed by them, titude: it is not only to many more pleasing to were soon known both to his friends and enemies: recollect those faults which place others below nor was it long before he perceived, from the be-them, than those virtues by which they are themhaviour of both, how much is added to the lustre selves comparatively depressed; but it is likeof genius, by the ornaments of wealth.

wise more easy to neglect than to recompense; His condition did not appear to excite much and though there are few who will practise a compassion; for he had not always been careful laborious virtue, there will never be wanting to use the advantages he enjoyed with that mo- multitudes that will indulge in easy vice. deration which ought to have been with more Savage, however, was very little disturbed at

the marks of contempt' which his ill-fortune him to solicit a reconciliation ; he returned rebrought upon him, from those whom he never proach for reproach, and insult for insult; his esteemed, and with whom he never considered superiority of wit supplied the disadvantages of himself as levelled by any calamities : and his fortune, and enabled him to form a party, and though it was not without some uneasiness that prejudice great numbers in his favour. he saw some, whose friendship he valued, change But though this might be some gratification their behaviour, he yet observed their coldness of his vanity, it afforded very little relief to his without much emotion, considered them as the necessities; and he was very frequently reduced slaves of fortune, and the worshippers of pros- to uncommon hardships, of which, however, he perity, and was more inclined to despise them, never made any mean or importunate complaints, than to lament himself.

being formed rather to bear misery with fortiIt does not appear that, after this return of his tude, than enjoy prosperity with moderation. wants, he found mankind equally favourable He now thought himself again at liberty to to him as at his first appearance in the world. expose the cruelty of his mother; and, thereHis story, though in reality not less melancholy, fore, I believe, about this time published “The was less affecting, because it was no longer new; Bastard," a poem remarkable for the vivacious it therefore procured him no new friends ; and sallies of thought in the beginning, where he those that had formerly relieved him, thought makes a pompous enumeration of the imaginary they might now consign him to others. He advantages of base birth ; and the pathetic senwas now likewise considered by many rather as timents at the end, where he recounts the real criminal, than as unhappy; for the friends of calamities which he suffered by the crime of his Lord Tyrconnel, and of his mother, were suffi- parents. ciently industrious to publish his weaknesses,

The vigour and spirit of the verses, the pecuwhich were indeed very numerous; and nothing liar circumstances of the author, the novelty of was forgotten that might make him either hate- the subject, and the notoriety of the story to ful or ridiculous.

which the allusions are made, procured this perIt cannot but be imagined, that such repre- formance a very favourable reception; great sentations of his faults must make great num. numbers were immediately dispersed, and edibers less sensible of his distress ; many, who tions were multiplied with unusual rapidity. had only an opportunity to hear one part, made One circumstance attended the publication, no scruple to propagate the account which they which Savage used to relate with great satisfaca received: many assisted their circulation from tion. His mother, to whom the poem was with malice or revenge; and perhaps many pretended “due reverence” inscribed, happened then to be to credit them, that they might with a better at Bath, where she could not conveniently retire grace withdraw their regard, or withhold their from censure, or conceal herself from observaassistance.

tion; and no sooner did the reputation of the Savage, however, was not one of those who poem begin to spread, than she heard it repeated suffered himself to be injured without resist in all places of concourse ; nor could she enter ance, nor was less diligent in exposing the faults the assembly-rooms, or cross the walks, without of Lord Tyrconnel ; over whom he obtained at being saluted with some lines from “The Basleast this advantage, that he drove him first to tard.” the practice of outrage and violence : for he was This was perhaps the first time that she ever so much provoked by the wit and virulence of discovered a sense of shame, and on this occaSavage, that he came with a number of attend-sion the power of wit was very conspicuous ; ants, that did no honour to his courage, to beat the wretch who had without scruple proclaimed him at a coffee house. But it happened that he herself an adulteress, and who had first endeahad left the place a few minutes ; and his lord-voured to starve her son, then to transport him, ship had, without danger, the pleasure of boast- and afterwards to hang him, was not able to ing how he would have treated him. Mr. Savage bear the representation of her own conduct; went next day to repay his visit at his own but fled from reproach, though she felt no pain house; but was prevailed on, by his domestics, from guilt, and left Bath with the utmost haste, to retire without insisting upon seeing him. to shelter herself among the crowds of London.

Lord Tyrconnel was accused by Mr. Savage Thus Savage had the satisfaction of finding, of some actions, which scarcely any provocations that, though he could not reform his mother, he will be thought sufficient to justify; such as could punish her, and that he did not always seizing what he had in his lodgings, and other suffer alone. instances of wanton cruelty, by which he in The pleasure which he received from this increased the distress of Savage, without any ad- crease of his poetical reputation, was sufficient vantage to himself.

for some time to overbalance the miseries of These mutual accusations were retorted on want, which this performance did not much alboth sides for many years, with the utmost de- leviate; for it was sold for a very trivial sum gree of virulence and rage ; and time seemed to a bookseller, who, though the success was so rather to augment than diminish their resent- uncommon that five impressions were sold, of ment. That the anger of Mr. Savage should be which many were undoubtedly very numerous, kept alive, is not strange, because he felt every had not generosity sufficient to admit the unday the consequences of the quarrel; but it might happy writer to any part of the profit. reasonably have been hoped, that Lord Tyrcon The sale of this poem was always mentioned nel might have relented, and at length have for- by Savage with the utmost elevation of heart, gotten those provocations, which, however they and referred to by him as an incontestable proof might have once inflamed him, had not in reality of a general acknowledgment of his abilities. It much hurt him.

was indeed the only production of which he could The spirit of Mr. Savage indeed never suffered justly boast a general reception.

« EelmineJätka »